Reflections of medical students on visiting chronically ill older patients in the home
Attitude of Health Personnel
The expanding number of Americans living with chronic illness necessitates educating future physicians about chronic illness care. Weill Cornell Medical College's Chronic Illness Care in the Home Setting Program (CIC-HSP), a mandatory part of the primary care clerkship, exposes medical students to persons with chronic illness via a half day of house calls with a geriatrics team. The investigators sought to qualitatively assess the effect of the CIC-HSP on medical students and recent medical graduates. Fifty-two prospective participants were approached, and 50 (96%) with varying training levels and time since completing the program were interviewed. Most respondents (63%) found that the home visits taught them important approaches to caring for the chronically ill, such as individualizing care to meet patients' individual needs and improving quality of life as a goal of care. Students remarked that the experience enhanced their empathy (18%) and sensitivity (20%) toward chronically ill patients and increased their appreciation for chronic illness care (35%). Many participants reported that patients were more empowered in the home (55%) and perceived greater rapport and warmth between the doctor and patient (57%) in the home (vs office) setting. The vast majority of recent medical graduates (84%) related that this educational exposure continued to positively influence their approach to patient care. A home visit experience with a geriatrics team can help foster medical students' understanding of the psychosocial and medical aspects of chronic illness, teach relevant approaches to patient care, and improve students' attitudes toward caring for the chronically ill.